Dee, Mercedez, and Peter check in on the high highs and low lows of the Winter season!
Date Recorded: February 13th, 2022
Hosts: Dee, Mercedez, and Peter
Pit of Shame
0:02:27 Police in a Pod
0:06:22 Love of Kill
0:08:35 Akebi’s Sailor Uniform
0:10:37 Slow Loop
0:11:36 Miss KUROITSU from the Monster Development Department
0:16:11 Life with an Ordinary Guy Who Reincarnated into a Total Fantasy Knockout
0:17:15 In the Land of Leadale
0:18:24 Genius Prince’s Guide to Raising a Nation Out of Debt
0:20:49 Tribe Nine
0:26:50 The Strongest Sage with the Weakest Crest
0:27:52 Salaryman’s Club
0:38:28 Tokyo 24th Ward
0:39:24 Requiem of the Rose King
0:44:44 My Dress-Up Darling
0:54:14 Sasaki and Miyano
0:57:29 SABIKUI BISCO
DEE: Hello and welcome to Chatty AF, the Anime Feminist podcast. I’m Dee, one of the managing editors at AniFem. You can find all my writings on my blog, The Josei Next Door. And that is a true statement now, because I actually did go in and make sure that they were all there. So you can find all my writings on my blog, The Josei Next Door. And you can also hang out with me on Twitter @joseinextdoor. And I am joined today by fellow AniFem staffers Mercedez and Peter.
MERCEDEZ: Hi, everyone. My name is Mercedez and I am, as Dee said, an Anime Feminist staff member. I am also a light novel editor, a freelance journalist, a tired 29-year-old, and you can find me on Twitter @pixelatedlenses, where I’m doing a little bit of everything.
PETER: And I’m Peter Fobian. I’m a manager of social video at Crunchyroll and editor at Anime Feminist. On Twitter I’m @PeterFobian.
DEE: You guys have such exciting credentials compared to me where I’m like, “I don’t know. Sometimes I write things.” [Chuckles] So, congratulations to both of you.
DEE: And today, the three of us are getting together to talk about the winter 2022 season at the midway point, ish. Scheduling was a little awkward this time around, so we are recording this a bit early. So if you notice we’re talking about up to episode 5 and something big and exciting happened in episode 6, that’s why. We’re a week behind and some shows drop on Sunday, so we will do our very best, and we’ll obviously catch you up on any other dramatic points when we do the retrospective at the end of the season.
So, it is kind of a busy season. It looks like the two of you are watching a fair bit. Typically, with these, for folks at home who have never heard them before, we use our Premiere Digest as a jumping-off point and we start at the bottom of that list of stuff that maybe had a lot more things that a feminist-minded viewer might be concerned about, and then we move up the list in terms of progressive themes and general feminist-minded concepts. So, we’re down here near the bottom.
Was there anything in the Red Flags category you guys wanted to talk about before we jump up and dig into the upper shows? Because you’re both sort of watching them, it looks like.
MERCEDEZ: [crosstalk] I can’t believe you’re not gonna let me talk about Police in a Pod! [Chuckles]
DEE: Oh, shit! Sorry, I missed that completely. I didn’t even realize you were still watching that one. Yeah! No, is there anything to add about Police in a Pod after that first episode?
MERCEDEZ: So, okay, here’s the weird thing about this show: it’s incredibly boring. It is incredibly boring. And they try to use comedy to make you like police officers. But one of the recent episodes covered groping. And I do have something to say about it, which is it oddly tried to play it straight, ended up being homophobic.
DEE: Oh no!
MERCEDEZ: Which is unexpected. You know, I didn’t think it was gonna do that. I expected it was gonna try and play it straight and just be like, “Don’t get groped.” In fact, though, it played it straight and was like, “Groping is bad.” It was a CEO who did the gropage. He groped a junior high school student and he also pressed his genitalia against her.
DEE: Oh my God! Okay. Content warnings galore, yeah.
MERCEDEZ: Yeah. But then they bring him in and they’re trying to get him to own up to the fact that he did it. And so what they do is they have one of the male officers, one of the male detectives, be the replacement for the female student he assaulted. And so he’s like, “Show us on this guy where you groped [her].” And meanwhile in the background, the other female officer [is] gagging, and it’s very uncomfortable. And he’s like, “Show us where you pressed your genitalia against him,” and one of the officers nearly throws up. It’s weird, because I would have thought to just play it straight and be like, “Groping is bad.” [Chuckles]
DEE: Right? They—
MERCEDEZ: Instead they were like, “Let’s make it homophobic,” and I was like, “You know what, Police in a Pod? That is audacious. I cannot applaud, because it’s horrible.”
DEE: No, that is about as bad as it could have gotten. Wow!
MERCEDEZ: I mean, yeah, this anime is just “Gaslight, girlkeep, gateboss” all the way and I hate it. Oh, wait, I don’t think that’s how that phrase goes.
PETER: That’s good, though.
DEE: I like the way you said it, though. Girlkeep, gateboss! I love it. [Laughs]
MERCEDEZ: It just really wants you to like the police in Japan. And I just don’t. I just don’t. As someone who lived there for four years, I super don’t. But the groping one was a standout of “Wow, we’ve hit an all-new low, haven’t we?” Did not think we could go to the level of: police officers make homophobia a part of groping.
DEE: Yeah, and it sounds like they were playing it for laughs almost, like ha-ha-ha.
MERCEDEZ: Oh yeah. You were supposed to be on the floor roflcoptering all around the ground, like this was supposed to be the funniest thing. And I just sat in front of my computer…
DEE: [crosstalk] About a sexual predator.
MERCEDEZ: I sat in front of my computer and I was like, “What’s funny?” [Chuckles] Nothing!
DEE: Yeah. “Could you explain the joke? Please explain it. I’m curious. Where’s the humor here?”
MERCEDEZ: And I tortured myself by watching this scene twice. And I was like, “No, I don’t… Uh-uh. Just not funny.” So Police in a Pod continues to be trash. That’s really all.
DEE: You don’t have to do this to yourself. You can just walk away! Just pack your bags and go!
MERCEDEZ: I know.
PETER: [crosstalk] Morbid curiosity?
MERCEDEZ: It’s morbid curiosity because—the OP slaps. I’m not even gonna lie. It’s one of the best OPs this season. And then I remember. I’m like, “Oh, it’s cops.” [Chuckles] It’s just not good. It’s just not good. Madhouse, what are you doing? It’s just not good.
DEE: Ugh. Oh, Madhouse. Make better choices. Make another season of Chihayafuru. Come on, Madhouse.
MERCEDEZ: Yeah. Yeah. Cards, not cops.
DEE: Yeah. Yes, cards not cops! Hashtag! That’s what we should get started on the socials.
MERCEDEZ: That’s really all there is to say about Police in a Pod.
DEE: I think that’s all the time we need to spend on it. Okay, was there anything we wanted to add about Akebi’s Sailor Uniform or Love of Kill that we didn’t touch on in the three-episode or the premiere review? Anything new that we need to discuss, or can we move past those?
PETER: I guess something for Love of Kill.
PETER: Unfortunately, it’s that it’s worse than we thought.
DEE: Oh no!
PETER: Yeah. Rather than Song just… I think in the premiere episode, it basically described how Song was pursuing Chateau, who did not seem interested or seem to have much of a personality at all, which made for a very boring romance. But it appears that the primary conflict in this story is that Song at some point betrayed the mob, killed one of the bosses, and now is being hunted down by the mob. And now that he’s pursuing Chateau and the mob found out about it, they’re trying to use her to get to him.
So it seems like every episode has devolved into this pattern where they try to kidnap her so that they can use her as a hostage against him. And despite the fact that she’s kind of portrayed as a mercenary, a hitman (I don’t quite know), I don’t think we’ve seen her kill anybody yet. So, she is somebody working in a semi-legal profession with a gun that seems to be a professional.
PETER: Each time, she just, despite being supposedly a dangerous hitman, gets easily defeated, damseled, so that Song can save her. And I guess after… And this happened twice now, so it feels like they’re just gonna keep repeating it and eventually maybe she’ll start to become romantically interested in him because he keeps rescuing her, even though—
PETER: —yeah, he’s the reason that she’s in danger in the first place. And it really sucks because… I at least thought it would be two hitmen doing a romance thing even if there was no chemistry, but it appears that she just isn’t good at the whole hitman thing either.
DEE: Yeah, it sounds like she’s basically a plot device for this dude, which sucks. All right, well, folks, good news is Spy × Family will have an anime adaptation soon. [Chuckles]
PETER: [crosstalk] It’s coming.
DEE: So we can enjoy some hitman shenanigans that are a lot more fun.
MERCEDEZ: I will say, one note on Akebi is it actually is getting better…
PETER: Oh, is it?
MERCEDEZ: Wait, you’re not watching it, Peter? You’re checked on this!
PETER: I’m, like, up to three episodes. Maybe I should’ve deleted it.
MERCEDEZ: I’m not saying that the sexualization issue is gone, because it’s not completely gone. Has it gotten less? Thank God, yes. It is a lot less and we’re actually kind of getting into the weirdness of being a junior high schooler, which is what I really wanted, versus the weirdness of a junior high schooler’s wet socks. It’s getting good? I don’t know. I feel like the monkey’s paw just curled. It’s better than it was.
MERCEDEZ: Not without its imperfections, but it’s better than it was.
PETER: Okay. I will check back in on it.
DEE: Or, I mean, only if you want to.
DEE: The fetishization of middle schoolers was definitely a big thing in the early episodes, so you might just want to say no. It’s okay, folks at home. You don’t have to watch it.
MERCEDEZ: I am professionally tethered to it, so…
DEE: Right. Yeah. I’m glad the viewing experience has gotten better for you.
MERCEDEZ: I am too, because I was waiting for the FBI to swoop in every episode because it was discomforting.
DEE: [crosstalk] Oh, God. That’s really not good.
MERCEDEZ: It was discomforting, and I was like, “Who…?” And apparently it’s worse in the manga?
MERCEDEZ: So, don’t ever localize that one, y’all.
PETER: I remember going into the show… I think I even mentioned in chat I read a couple chapters of the manga and it felt a little eerie. So when that happened in the anime, too, it didn’t really blindside me, but maybe, as with the anime, apparently the manga got on to actual content sooner rather than later.
DEE: Well, good. I’m glad that reviewing it is not terribly painful for you anymore, so that’s good.
Let’s go ahead and keep moving. Mercedez, was there anything in particular you wanted to say about Slow Loop, or has it kind of stayed the course?
MERCEDEZ: It’s pretty much stayed the course. But it’s also a really good study in grief. It’s a really actually sweet story about grieving parents when you lose them as a kid. It’s also got lots of fish, lots of fish food. So if you are hungry for Long John Silver’s, just watch this anime. Just watch this.
DEE: [Laughs] Love it. Okay, so a nice sort of healing “cute girl do things” sort of anime?
MERCEDEZ: Cute girls do fishing.
DEE: Cool! Yeah. No problem with those existing.
MERCEDEZ: And let me tell you: women don’t fear ‘em and fish don’t fear ‘em either. It’s great.
DEE: [Laughs] Nobody fears these sweet girls.
MERCEDEZ: They’re so good.
DEE: I’m glad you’re having a nice time with that one. And it sounds like if anybody likes a nice iyashikei, then Slow Loop may be a good one for you to check out.
MERCEDEZ: Yeah, it’s a good one.
DEE: Okay, Peter… I really wish Chiaki could have made this.
PETER: Yeah, same.
DEE: [crosstalk] There was a schedule conflict, which is why I’m here. Because we have a whole bunch of shows in this category that are very much in her wheelhouse, and none of us are especially well equipped to talk about them in detail, but we’re gonna brush past them and do our best here.
So, Miss Kuroitsu from the Monster Development Department, which was the show that was basically about the R&D department for a supervillain organization. I watched the first episode. It was okay. I felt like it needed a better director to really hit its comedic points. And the fact that I kept thinking about how much better it would be… and then also the stuff with the wolf boy kind of put me off. So I didn’t go back to it, but I didn’t hate it. It sounds like it is continuing to be problematic but also kind of funny. How are you liking that one?
PETER: I feel like the major problematic part is really the wolf character. Besides that, it’s pretty tame. It might have been one joke about getting genetic material… I don’t know. That was so quick and nonspecific. But in general, I think it’s pretty good. They’ve got some good jokes in there. I think they were gonna make a hydra monster, but they kept having budget cuts, so it’s a girl with like nine snakes coming out of her and they had to reduce it down to just one.
PETER: That kind of thing. They made some sort of giant phoenix and budget cuts caused it… It basically looks like a guy in a chicken suit that has a Saiyan scouter and just a gun. He just has a revolver.
PETER: Yeah, so a lot of it’s just they design a monster and then the thing that they get is somewhat disappointing. And then a lot of workday jokes, except they’re making foam rubber tokusatsu villains. So that’s the angle of humor, I guess.
I really like the boss, who is one of those overlord tokusatsu characters, but he is an amazingly good boss, really good at his job, takes employee health very seriously, isn’t willing to do extra work if it means his employees [don’t] get the time off that they are allowed via the employment contracts, that kind of thing.
Yeah, every once in a while they touch on the wolf character. In general they have just sort of become a part of the department. And they do some fanservicey jokes around the character, but I think even maybe the series is getting bored with the specific angle of the character’s origin being a source of humor.
DEE: So maybe they could just give them the body they want and we could move on from there. That would be swell.
Folks at home, trying to explain this quickly would be difficult because anime science-y magic. But effectively, Wolf is a boy who got thrown into, in quotes, “a girl’s body” due to weird last-minute changes to the monster design. Wolf is very insistent as of the early episodes (I have no idea if this is changing) that he is a boy and he is saving up his money to get his body to match his brain. So there’s a lot of trans elements to this character that the series doesn’t handle as sensitively as maybe it should. [Chuckles]
MERCEDEZ: Hold up. Hold up, wait a minute. Hold up, wait a minute. You mean to tell me that this villain who has great health care insurance was like, “No, but you can’t have money to transition.” Excuse me? That’s not nice.
PETER: [crosstalk] I think they need to biologically generate a new… Because they’re effectively like a werewolf monster.
MERCEDEZ: Oh, okay. Okay.
PETER: So, yeah, I think… Oh, in addition to wanting to be a man, I think he also wants to be a man werewolf that can fight tokusatsu heroes. So I think there’s an added element of…
MERCEDEZ: You know what?
PETER: [Chuckles] I don’t know. Yeah.
DEE: So, science and magic plot nonsense.
PETER: I think that’s it, yeah.
MERCEDEZ: I hope he gets what he wants.
PETER: Yeah, same.
MERCEDEZ: I hope he gets what he wants.
DEE: As did I, and I just wasn’t sure if I wanted to keep watching it because there was a lot of fanservice around the character that I really didn’t care for because it’s very discomfort-based and I’m not here for it. So that was one of the reasons I tapped out after the first episode. But again, if it moves past that, I think the other elements of it were… It was fun. It was enjoyable.
PETER: Yeah. The chicken’s very good.
DEE: Yeah, I’ve heard good things about some of the supporting cast.
PETER: [crosstalk] He’s my favorite character.
DEE: Excellent. Big chicken.
Okay, the next one also has some sort of trans metaphor vibes to it, which is Life with an Ordinary Guy Who Reincarnated as a Fantasy Knockout. Peter, once again, you’re the only person on the call watching this one. I guess, you know, touch on it as best you can. How is it?
PETER: Oh, God.
DEE: I know production value-wise, it’s really nice looking.
PETER: Mm-hm. Yeah, I’m so unqualified. I think Chiaki brought up the problematic elements.
DEE: [crosstalk] That’s fine. Honestly, you could say, “I’m unqualified. Read the three-episode review.” I think that’s also fine.
PETER: I don’t think the issues with the show have really evolved since the three-episode. I do think we had concerns that it had one single joke. And it kind of does, but also I think they keep finding new and fresh angles on it. So I’ve been very entertained by the show, if you can accept the premise, I think, is what I’m going to say.
DEE: Okay, yeah, we’ll just direct folks to the three-episode for that if you would like some more details about that, because Chiaki wrote it and she is much better able to handle the conversation there.
Next one is In the Land of Leadale, which is, I believe, another isekai because we are flush with them at all times forever. Peter, sorry to make you monologue at us, but anything in particular you want to touch on there? Has it pretty much stayed the course?
PETER: I think it stayed the course. I do want to mention that they introduce her children. I guess there was a system in the game where you could give yourself NPC kids, but they’re real people in this world, so she’s got three kids: two elves and a dwarf somehow. I think the dwarf’s adopted. He’s the only responsible one. But they’re all very high-powered, important people but they all have… And I don’t know if somebody said that they were sort of problematic. They’re all very affectionate toward their mother.
MERCEDEZ: [concerned] Ooh!
PETER: The son is my favorite since he has a lot of magic and uses it to make shoujo flowers appear behind him depending upon his moods.
DEE: Hell yeah.
PETER: And his tears turn into pearls upon his cheeks that fall to the ground.
DEE: I love extra characters, so that’s delightful.
PETER: He’s very extra.
DEE: Excellent. Okay, so it sounds like if you were enjoying that from the beginning, probably stayed the course. Nothing new to really touch on there.
Do we need to talk about Genius Prince’s Guide to Raising a Nation out of Debt, or can we skim past that one?
PETER: I do think there’s something to mention, since I think we just… I read the first-episode [review], and it was just kind of like, “Oh, this guy’s an asshole, and it’s probably just going to be how smart and cool he is.” I think I should mention that the creepy thing they did in the first episode where the girl… he asked the girl to meow for him to help him think, which…
PETER: I don’t know. They stopped doing that… The whole series reminds me of Alderamin, which also had this weird fanservice in the first episode, then just kind of cut it out. It seems like there’s a mutual attraction. And the girl is also very proactive about it, so I feel like there’s more equity there rather than him just being a weirdo. It’s sort of implied that they both like each other and might have gotten married except she’s some sort of widely discriminated-against racial minority, which is pretty fraught on its own.
MERCEDEZ: [crosstalk] Oh my God.
MERCEDEZ: [Sighs] Oh no!
DEE: [sarcastic] Love me some fantasy racism. It’s always handled so well!
PETER: So since he’s a prince, I don’t think he’s allowed to marry [her] even though they probably both love each other or something. The main thrust of the story is they’ve introduced the imperial princess, who apparently went with both of them to military academy, and they were part of the same clique. And she wants to take over the empire and become the empress. And I think they made this bet back in school where he said, “I’ll help you if you can make me help you,” to challenge her, and I think she kinda succeeds in politically forcing him into a position where he has to help her. And I don’t know if the show’s succeeding in making them seem to be on equal intellectual ground, but I definitely think that’s what it’s trying to accomplish, so it’s not just about how much smarter he is than everyone else. And I don’t know if the main plot is basically going to become about her becoming the queen and him having to help her because of this bet, which I think is a cooler plot than was introduced in the first episode.
DEE: It’s definitely a more unique premise than what it sounded like it was going to be from episode 1, so props if the series found a voice for itself. Good for it.
Okay, next up, Mercedez, you’re keeping up with Tribe Nine?
MERCEDEZ: Yeah. [Chuckles] I hear you. You said that, both with a mix of surprise and resignation to the fact that, yes, indeed I am.
DEE: [crosstalk] No, no, no, I actually… Good for you. I watched the first episode of it. I enjoyed it well enough, but once again, kind of like Kuroitsu, I kept thinking of a version of it that was better with different people working on it, and so I kind of pulled away from it. But how is it? Are you enjoying it?
MERCEDEZ: Well, you wouldn’t be wrong that there is a better version in all of our heads. Tribe Nine is fascinating in the fact that it goes between extremely entertaining and flashy to about as exciting as a cup of hot water.
MERCEDEZ: And I have to admit, it’s hard… When I first started watching it, I was like, “Oh, it’s gonna be impossible for me not to compare this to Danganronpa,” because it’s by Kodaka, the creator of Danganronpa, who also helmed Akudama Drive. And I should say Tribe Nine is a multimedia thing. It’s supposed to be a mobile game.
DEE: Oh, okay, so it’s got a… Okay. That’s good to know.
MERCEDEZ: I think when you understand that, you understand a lot of its flaws. But it has all of the flash, not the animation budget, but the colors of Akudama Drive actually, with none of the enjoyment. And that’s actually what I mentally keep comparing it to because they’re both set in two of Japan’s largest areas, Tokyo and Kansai. Akudama Drive is in Kansai; this is in Tokyo.
And the premise is cool: Tokyo is ruled by these Tribes—which, we could have chosen a better word—that are essentially gangs that play Extreme Baseball, and that’s really cool.
DEE: Yeah, baseball games. I love the premise. Baseball gangs playing the most out-there form of baseball you can come up with, and I was like, “Yes! Go hog wild! Go bonkers with this.”
MERCEDEZ: Right, right. Can I give a buckwild spoiler from the fourth episode?
MERCEDEZ: They kill off one of the main characters.
DEE: Wow! Okay! Tribe Nine’s going for it.
MERCEDEZ: You do not expect this. Kamiya Shun, our silver-haired discount Nagito Komaeda… This child gets hit in a fight, in an XB fight in episode 3. And he sits down at the end of the episode and you’re like, “Okay, he just left the hospital. He’s okay.” Y’all, he’s dead!
PETER: Oh, shit. Did he get the Dezaki Postcard Memory Moment?
MERCEDEZ: The next episode opens and he’s sitting down against a light pole, and they’re like, “We didn’t know that Shun was sick.” And I’m like, “Sick?” He was dying from anime cancer.
DEE: [playfully] Whoa!
MERCEDEZ: Oh, and from there, this series just kind of goes downhill because his replacement is the kind of know-it-all character that nobody actually likes. And the budget also seems to have gone with Shun, like Shun died and Shun pulled his check.
DEE: Yeah, and the schedule also collapsed around Shun.
MERCEDEZ: Yeah, it’s just not good.
DEE: That’s too bad.
MERCEDEZ: It’s quickly devolving. Like, this new character calls them all monkeys and, y’all, there is a darker brown-skinned Asian child that I was like… They already kind of drew him in a way that looks caricaturish, and I was like, “Oh, now he’s being called a monkey. This is not good.” It’s very fraught. It’s not enjoyable.
There’s one girl in this entire cast.
DEE: Oh, the manager, right? No, no, she’s the catcher, right?
MERCEDEZ: No, no. Spoiler alert. She becomes the manager of the newly reformed team, though.
DEE: Oh, fuck you, Tribe Nine! That was one of my favorite things about the first episode. I was like, “Oh, cool. The one girl is actually on the team. She’s not just the manager.”
MERCEDEZ: Yeah, she becomes the leader. Well, she’s the leader technically, so, whatever, you know. It sucks. And I gotta watch it because I’m professionally tied to it.
DEE: [crosstalk] It’s another one you’re reviewing for money, so you just kind of have to stick with it. I’m sorry. That’s too bad. The first episode made me think it would at least be fun.
PETER: Yeah, same.
MERCEDEZ: And the only thing I am clinging to right now is I don’t think that Shun is actually dead. But we’re gonna get to episode 12 and that child’s going to be, for sure, 100% dead dead dead, and I’m just going to be disappointed in this series. But I don’t know if I could recommend someone to watch this because your time on Earth is finite. You have one life.
DEE: Yeah, sounds like it’s pretty rough. That’s too bad.
MERCEDEZ: Yeah, don’t use your 30 minutes, your finite 30 minutes, to watch this.
PETER: After Akudama Drive was so immaculate, too, it’s strange…
DEE: Akudama Drive was great. Or if you want to watch a buckwild baseball episode, BNA’s got a great one. Dorohedoro’s got a great one. Pokémon’s got a great one. There’s so many good buckwild baseball episodes out there for you! Just cobble them together.
MERCEDEZ: And that’s the shame, because I would like sports anime to take more risk into this direction—not that they don’t take risks, because I feel like someone out there was like, “Mercedez!”—but I would like them to take more risk in the direction of being more fantasy and just outrageous.
DEE: Oh, yeah.
MERCEDEZ: There is that element, but the most recent episode, they had baseball bikers, and the only thing that made me laugh was a character lit a baseball on fire and then had to juggle it because his hand was getting burned. And I thought that was really funny because I was like, “Oh, that’s quite realistic.” It just was a very ugly, muddy, unfunny episode. They trick the baseballers with porn and, oh, the porn’s a hot gorilla girl! And I was like, I don’t know what this series has with monkeys and gorillas but it is very uncomfortable and slightly racialized. It just is not… Just, you know…
PETER: It sounds bad.
DEE: That is too bad.
MERCEDEZ: It’s a swing and a miss! [Chuckles]
DEE: Ha-ha! Yeah, I feel that. Okay, let’s go ahead and keep going then. I’m sorry you’re tethered to that one, but good luck in the back half. Maybe it’ll be interesting for you.
MERCEDEZ: I’ll survive.
DEE: Peter, anything to note about Strongest Sage with the Weakest Crest, yet another light novel isekai fantasy series on our docket this season?
PETER: I think the show got a lot better when they introduced the main character’s dragon friend from his previous reincarnation (eh, maybe “friend” is a strong word), Iris. She’s basically a Dragon Maid character except not quite as funny, but she does a lot of heavy lifting keeping the show entertaining. So I just wanted to say Iris is good.
DEE: Mm-hm. So pretty much still kind of a Neutral Zone show, nothing to warn folks about but also nothing standout about it to discuss either?
PETER: Yeah, I can’t really say it’s done anything really bad. There’s an obvious MC romance. It doesn’t seem like any other girls are particularly interested in them, so it’s not trying to build up to a harem thing. The other girls are just sort of hanging out and being friends.
DEE: Yeah, all right. So, it exists. Good for it.
Okay, next one… Actually we’re getting into shows I am watching. Next one only has three episodes out because it dropped later in the season. That is Salaryman’s Club, which is the badminton show about grown-ass adults working at an office who also play badminton in the evenings. I’m really enjoying this one. Peter, you’re watching this as well.
MERCEDEZ: I didn’t know this anime existed.
PETER: Yeah, late premiere.
DEE: [crosstalk] Yeah, it dropped late January. Liden Films is putting a bunch of effort into it.
PETER: [crosstalk] I think what happened was…
DEE: What were you going to say, Peter?
PETER: It took World Trigger’s time slot, I think. So, World Trigger had two episodes this year, and when it ended that, then Salaryman started.
DEE: Oh, okay. So it had a few extra to get through and then Salaryman picked up after it.
DEE: Yeah, so I’m enjoying this one a lot. This is basically everything I look for in a sports anime—well, a male-led sports anime. There’s one woman in the office, who seems fine, but it is a show about a men’s badminton team, so all the characters are guys. The dynamics between them are good. I think the character writing so far has been entertaining. I’m not gonna say it’s the deepest or most unique thing in the world, but I enjoy hanging out with them every week.
It looks really good. The badminton animation, especially in that first episode, was really impressive. It’s a fun time. I feel like putting it in the Neutral Zone is extremely where it needs to be. There’s nothing especially progressive about it, but also it’s a good show. It’s a good sports anime, and again, I love that it’s grown-ups! It’s adults!
DEE: The most recent episode, half of the episode was actually about them working their day job because they had a proposal that they needed to write. And the main guy doesn’t really know how to be an office worker, so the rest of the badminton team kind of helped him figure out how to write a proposal and talk up the good points versus the weaknesses they needed to cover to get this new product out on the market, because they work for a soda company. And I thought that element of it was really fun, too. I enjoyed—
PETER: That was actually my favorite scene in the entire show so far. [Chuckles]
DEE: Yeah! It wasn’t boring at all. It felt authentic to what a healthy office environment can feel like, and coming up with ideas and getting your concept out there. And yeah, it’s good! It’s a well-written sports show that also has that sort of interesting element of “And also here they are at work,” so I appreciate it.
PETER: Yeah. I do have to say I was not expecting the show to explain to viewers what a SWOT analysis is.
DEE: Yeah! I thought it would explain badminton to me. I didn’t know it’d be explaining…
PETER: Proposals and business analysis stuff, yeah.
DEE: Yeah, we’re getting two sides of the “learn something new” equation, which is exciting.
PETER: I honestly hope it keeps that up, actually.
DEE: No, me too.
PETER: I had never heard of this work athletics program before, but just the culture around that is probably one of the more interesting points for the series for me. So I hope to learn more about that.
DEE: [crosstalk] Yeah, that is a good point, because yeah, I said it necessarily wasn’t doing anything super unique, but that actually is pretty unique. I mean, we don’t see a lot of sports anime about adults, period, and we definitely don’t see a lot of [them] that are about more amateur league. It’s a corporate league that is apparently taken pretty seriously, but they’re not playing in the Olympics or anything like that.
PETER: Yeah, Chiaki mentioned it’s pretty prevalent in Japan, but I’ve never seen any media about it ever, so that’s pretty crazy.
DEE: Yeah, me neither, which is kinda surprising.
MERCEDEZ: Mm-mm. Now that you’ve mentioned it, it kind of actually is shocking.
DEE: Yeah. So it’s really cool to see. I hope it does well. One of the characters is voiced by one of my all-time favorite voice actors, Miki Shinichiro, so I just am always happy to hear him talking at me at any time, any day. Yeah, it’s great. Sorry, we don’t have to spend too much more time on it, but I’m liking this one a lot three episodes in.
PETER: I did have one moment of disappointment where the main character heroically stopped a man from stealing canned food.
DEE: [crosstalk] Yes! Thank you! Thank you! I had that in my notes and then I forgot about it. Yeah, in the second episode they stopped a shoplifter and it was a dude stealing who was clearly…
PETER: Canned food.
DEE: Yeah, he was stealing food from a grocery store. I’m like, “Guys, that’s not heroic. If somebody’s stealing food from a grocery store, they need food. At least help them.”
PETER: Yeah, maybe they’re hungry. [Chuckles] Why would somebody steal canned food? Yeah.
DEE: Nobody steals food from a grocery store for the thrill of it.
MERCEDEZ: [ironic] I mean, Dee, don’t you know that all crimes have to be punished equally?
DEE: [Sighs] You’ve been watching too much Police in a Pod. [Laughs]
MERCEDEZ: Oh no. Oh no.
PETER: I’m glad they didn’t wax philosophic after that scene or anything, because if they’d gotten up their own ass about it, that would have been really intolerable.
DEE: No, they really just moved on from it. He noticed the dude was shoplifting, stopped him, and it kind of got them back in the good graces of the grocery store owner because they’d screwed up earlier in the episode with him. And that was basically it. It wasn’t like, “Oh, you’re such a hero!” It was just like, “Oh, cool. Thanks, I guess.”
PETER: And also to show off that he has mind-reading powers, which is why he’s good at badminton. [Chuckles]
DEE: Yeah. He can predict via body language. It’s almost a magic power, but not quite, which I… I love that stuff in sports anime, so I have no problem with it here. But yeah, no, that scene made me uncomfy, too, because I’m like, “Guys, please. Please. I hope after this you helped him. I hope you fed this man, because clearly he needs food.” So, yeah. But other than that, I think it’s been a fun time.
MERCEDEZ: Hey, that’s all we ask: for a fun time.
Peter, anything to say about Orient?
PETER: I was actually kind of preparing to come in here singing its… what do you say, “good graces” or something like that? In episode 3 and 4, they introduce Tsugumi, who’s the girl in their group in the opening. And her whole subplot is how she works at or lives in a militarized town where the leader is a complete asshole and he’s straight-up gaslighting her. They have very realistic scenes of him demeaning her and her rationalizing his abuse and putting herself down because of the things he says. And I thought it was handled really well.
The scenes are hard to watch, and I think they’re supposed to be. It seemed like the author was really trying to focus on this and the psychology of somebody who’s put in that situation and begins to tear themself down to square away the things that they’re hearing and the fact that they admire the person who’s doing this to them. And I thought it was handled really well.
It ends with her piledriving him into a sidewalk. But even after that, she ends up deciding to leave and follow the main characters because continuing to be around that guy would be bad for her mental health. And she realizes that and she’s not sure if she would fall into the same bad habits of listening to his verbal abuse again. And I’m just like, “Wow, this seems really well thought out and kind of realistic.”
Unfortunately, the next episode, they have this thing where, when they’re all on the road together, they’re trying to be friends and it reveals all their tragic backstories about how they’re very bad at making friends with other people for various reasons and they’re all awkward turtles. But hers… Apparently her older sister said, “When in doubt take your clothes off.” So…
DEE: Oh, damn it, anime!
PETER: Yeah, she just takes her shirt off. All of them are talking about how awkward they are while she’s literally not wearing a top. And then I was just kind of like, “Oh, maybe this show isn’t good after all.”
MERCEDEZ: Yeah, that’s not good at all. That’s just cringe.
PETER: [crosstalk] Yeah, followed up very good with just the worst fucking scene ever, so I’m worried that she’s just gonna become a walking fanservice joke now that the traumatic plot has been resolved, which sucks ass.
DEE: That fully sucks. Yeah. Damn it. Well, keep me posted, I guess, at the end of season, but that doesn’t… because that was one that I was like, oh, maybe I’ll check it out, maybe. But, mm, no, I think I’m okay right now. There’s other stuff I can be watching.
PETER: [crosstalk] I heard from Nate that Magi really handled its women well, so I don’t know if this is just the person (I don’t remember the author’s name) phoning it in now that they’ve got a hugely successful title under their belt or something.
DEE: Yeah, who knows? And maybe it’ll go away and it will never be a thing again and it was like a one-off gag. Who knows?
PETER: I hope so. I hope it was just a lapse in judgment, a huge lapse in judgment.
DEE: That’s exhausting. Yeah. All right, well, we can move past it. Mercedez, you are watching Cue. Has it pretty much stayed the course?
MERCEDEZ: It stayed the course, but I think it’s actually gotten better each week.
DEE: Oh, okay. That’s good.
MERCEDEZ: It is a very grounded series. I think of a lot of idol… And I say “idol” because Cue does eventually involve the voice actresses getting into idol work—or some of them considering it. I think shows like this in this genre of idols and voice actors often try and go for a gimmick. I think of 22/7, wherein the girls communicated via a wall. [Chuckles] Or Idoly Pride, where there was a ghost. And instead, Cue has just decided to be incredibly grounded.
Early on, the girls try out for an anime. Only three of them get roles, and not even the main character. Three of them get them, and they’re characters that you really haven’t paid a lot of attention to, except for one of them. And the rest, they just have to lean into getting better at voice acting. It’s really, really good, and I think it’s one of those series that… I don’t think it’s necessarily going to be remembered. I don’t think it’s one of a kind, but it is one of a kind in the same way and kind of in the same breath because it’s just so darn charming and it’s so good that I just really enjoy it.
DEE: Good! I’m glad to hear that.
MERCEDEZ: And the cool thing is that some of the voice actresses actually are new voice actresses.
DEE: Oh, okay. So it’s also a way to promote some new talent maybe.
MERCEDEZ: Yeah. So there’s a bit of realism and fourth wall-breaking. But it’s quite enjoyable. It’s quite enjoyable. Yeah.
DEE: That’s good to hear. Yeah, I know the first episode wasn’t terrible but wasn’t super standout, so…
MERCEDEZ: Yeah, it’s definitely improved.
DEE: Great! That is good to know.
Okay, so we are heading into our higher-tiered categories. I say “higher,” but it’s things that have maybe some more progressive themes to them. Entering “It’s Complicated.”
Tokyo 24th Ward, none of us are watching except Vrai, who did want us to let everyone know that the show is really swinging for the fences in terms of having some conversations about justice systems and law enforcement and socioeconomic factors that influence those things. And it kind of makes me feel like I should be watching this show.
PETER: [crosstalk] I gotta watch it now.
DEE: It sounds like it’s kind of messy, but it is trying to say a thing and do some actual progressive social issue engagement. So, possibly worth checking out if you’ve been sleeping on it. I can’t speak to it in any sort of detail, so apologies if I’ve missed a big downside to it. But I know Vrai has mentioned it as being something they are fascinated with, even if it’s maybe not gonna stick the landing. So, worth keeping an eye on. Maybe something to check out if your watch list is looking thin this season.
Next up is Requiem of the Rose King, which, Peter, you’re keeping up with this one as well?
DEE: Okay. What are your thoughts? Because I wrote the three-episode check-in for it, so…
PETER: I don’t know if I have too many thoughts. I have enjoyed it up until now. I’ve gotta say, the new revelation where—or, I guess not really a revelation—where, oh my God, Richard’s the main character, right?
PETER: Okay, walks up to the door and overhears the only part of the conversation that he could possibly misconstrue.
DEE: Yes. About Anne refusing to marry him, but he assumes it’s because she hates him when it’s not that at all.
PETER: [crosstalk] Yeah, [that] she’s been manipulating him when, in fact, the reason she doesn’t want to is because she does not want to manipulate him. That was so… I just got a flashback to so many drawn-out romantic series that I’m very nervous that I’m not going to be able to jive with whatever happens next. But overall, I’ve been very interested to see where the show is going with all this while reenacting this very interesting part of history, sort of.
DEE: Sort of.
DEE: It is unto history as… I mean, it’s based on a Shakespeare play, which is based on history, so we’re like two levels down. And it is based on these things in the way that Saiyuki is based on Journey to the West, which is to say barely. [Chuckles] So it’s really its own thing, but it is also loosely following the War of the Roses.
PETER: Mm-hm. Yeah, so I think that’s all I got. I hope the primary plot doesn’t become the whole romantic misunderstanding thing. Oof.
DEE: Yeah. No, I’m sure that will just be one more element of angst for poor Richard.
PETER: Got a lot.
DEE: There’s just so many elements of angst in that boy’s life.
PETER: Oh, I do have to say baby Richard is very good, though.
DEE: How do you mean?
PETER: Just whenever they do baby Richard, it’s just this very small, large-headed creature with hair covering one eye. Ah, this is gonna sound like an insult, but it kinda reminds me of one of the goth kids in South Park.
DEE: [Chuckles] I know what you mean. Okay, I know what you mean now. Yeah, they do draw him very… The style feels very different from the rest of the show, but it is this kind of adorable and charming.
PETER: Baby gremlin, yeah. I like it. Mm-hm.
DEE: Yeah, I feel like I don’t have a ton more to say that I didn’t say my three-episode review. I wish the production was better. I wish that they weren’t barreling through 17 volumes. I think it’s 17 volumes, something like that.
DEE: Trying to do that in like 26 episodes, because you can definitely tell.
MERCEDEZ: [crosstalk] Wow.
DEE: Any time it’s allowed to breathe, it’s really good, and any time it’s like, “Well, we just gotta barrel through these plot points about the politicking that’s happening,” you’re like, “I am losing focus, because it just feels like you’re giving me a bullet-point list at this point.”
So it’s very up and down. I mean, same production-wise. Any time it’s allowed to breathe and just focus on character interactions, I think some of the aesthetic and style that it brings to it is very striking. And then other times it’s like a still frame of Richard on a horse and they can’t even animate the horse’s feet clopping in a loop, and I’m like, “Oh no! This can’t be good!” And it is noticeably stiff.
It’s very compelling. It’s sort of problematic. There’s a lot of evil, cackling women, except for Anne, who’s Not Like Other Girls. Put that in caps.
PETER: [Chuckles] A good person.
DEE: I think Richard specifically said that in the last episode: “You’re not like other women.” And I was like, “No! Stop it, Requiem.” But it is riding the line between a very nuanced character study and just trashy melodrama, and so I do find it very compelling. As Vrai has noted in the past, it’s a hard one to recommend. But give it a try and see how it works for you, I guess. You know, I have a fondness for high drama, so I’m here for this one, even if the adaptation is rough.
PETER: I think you saying that kind of explains a lot of my feelings toward it. It seems like it’s been giving a lot of historical background very rapidly to set up when Richard goes apeshit or something. And Richard has not gone apeshit yet, so a lot of it feels like setup still.
DEE: I mean, he did have a stabbing party in episode 2 or 3. I forget when that was.
PETER: [crosstalk] True.
DEE: Just went to town on that battlefield, just stabbing everybody! But that’s the other thing about the show that kind of irks me: the boys get to go on a stabbing party to avenge their dad, but when the women decide to try to avenge their husbands or fathers or whatever, it’s like, “Oh, you evil, manipulative harpy!” And I’m like, “How dare you! They’re doing the same thing! Everybody’s everybody is dead, and they’re angry about it.” So, that’s an element of annoyance to it.
And I’m not even going to attempt to speak on the intersex, gender elements of it. I would love a pitch from somebody, so our pitches are currently open. That would be terrific. But I’m not going to try to make any sort of broad statements about that at this point.
Yeah, so it is compelling. We’ll see where it goes.
Speaking of shows I don’t think I can recommend…
PETER: Oh, God.
DEE: Next on the list is My Dress-Up Darling.
MERCEDEZ: Y’all, I keep wanting to watch this, but I keep seeing the discourse and I’m just like, “It’s Black History Month. I don’t know if I can spare the energy.”
PETER: Has there been discourse?
DEE: That’s fair.
MERCEDEZ: Yeah, I think maybe a lot of the discourse I’m seeing is about [the] manga and about what potentially will be covered in the anime.
PETER: Oh, I see. Okay.
MERCEDEZ: [crosstalk] Yeah. But how is it?
DEE: Well, I’ll tell you, I dropped it.
PETER: Yeah, I know exactly why Dee dropped it. I’ve been looking at that note on the thing the entire podcast. [Chuckles]
MERCEDEZ: What made you drop it?
DEE: Well, as of the recording of this podcast and the most recent episode, we were introduced… Well, you know what? I should backtrack. This one has been on my… I haven’t even officially had it on my Crunchyroll watch list. I have been keeping up with it, and every episode it’s like, “I’m gonna drop this. I might drop this.”
Because episode 2, I really started to see the strings. Episode 2 was like 90% fanservice. A lot of it feels very contrived to me in terms of “Look at this oblivious girl who doesn’t understand why it might be weird for this guy to measure her boobs and the inseam of her thigh while she’s wearing a bikini.”
And any time I… Sorry, I’m trying to get my thoughts in order here because there has been a lot of discourse around this and I’m trying not to misspeak.
There’s a certain level of “Teenagers are thirsty and teenagers should have thirsty material for them,” and riding that line between that and objectifying or fetishizing teenagers is a very, very difficult thing to do. The fact that My Dress-Up Darling runs in a seinen so it is targeted at a higher age demographic than the characters, who are 16, has been an issue for me pretty much since the beginning.
MERCEDEZ: [crosstalk] Yeah, oh no.
DEE: If it was in a shounen and it was ecchi about these 16-year-olds, I’d be like, “Okay, well, it’s targeted at 16-year-olds. 16-year-olds are horny. Fine.” And to the show’s credit, again, from this perspective, it’s not embarrassment-based. Marin is cool with her body and having her boobs out in a cute swimsuit or in the cosplay that she wants. Again, fictional characters can’t have agency, but from the perspective of that fictional world, Marin is also having a fine time, right? She is the one who wants to wear these costumes and whatever.
So, okay, that’s there. So if you have that targeted at that age group, cool. The fact that it’s not is the first level of discomfort.
MERCEDEZ: Yeah, because seinen shifted a lot. And I don’t think people realize seinen is 18 to 40.
DEE: Yeah. Seinen and josei, those are magazines that are… And more and more the demographic along gender lines is becoming meaningless because a lot of girls read shounen, there are boys who read shoujo. And same with seinen and josei. The gender lines are a lot fuzzier now than they used to be. But the age ranges are there. The idea is this is not necessarily material suitable for minors. So the fact that your characters are minors… that’s a big side-eye right from the start.
The character writing… When it’s not engaging in “Look at Marin’s tits!” the character writing between her and Gojo has been good. I can see the strings of the way she’s being presented as this sort of fantasy figure for the reader to presumably map some fantasies onto. I can see that, but at the same time there’s been enough work done on making her a fully fleshed-out individual and making him a fleshed-out individual that, okay, I can work with it. But I’m still riding that line the whole time.
And then the most recent episode, they introduced a character who is officially in her second year of high school but is mistaken for an elementary schooler pretty much from the word go.
MERCEDEZ: Oh no!
DEE: And then they make a point of pointing out that she has no body hair because Gojo walks in on her coming out of a bath and she slips and he gets a full-on view of everything.
MERCEDEZ: Oh no.
DEE: And I was done. I was done. It was gross and I was out. I was like, okay, can I get through this? And I wasn’t. It lost all my goodwill immediately. That’s nasty.
MERCEDEZ: That’s a lot.
DEE: Yeah. [Sighs] One to two times a year, somebody in the manga industry gets convicted of actual pedophilia, seems like, pretty much since we’ve started running this website. So it’s a real-world problem. This isn’t just fiction. And I can’t. I can’t. So I’m out. I’m sorry. I’m sorry, My Dress-Up Darling. I’m out.
MERCEDEZ: No, but I think that’s fair because I think… I know Twitter is not a nuanced place, but I so often see the conversation of “Fiction doesn’t affect reality” and “Fiction does influence reality,” and the reality is that both are true. Fiction is fiction, but fiction also is born out of the world around us. I mean, my “world around us” doesn’t include hot elves and dragons. But the coding that we apply to characters into worlds is based on our world.
And so, when you have an instance like that (which, that makes me so afraid to watch this anime) where a character first is demeaned for having a petite body, which… It’s 2022. Could we retire that? There are people that have petite bodies that have full autonomy and that should be treated with respect. But the fact that then she’s just… I don’t even want to say it. The fact that everything you described happens is just… unnecessary.
DEE: It’s the fetishization of children, and it’s not okay.
MERCEDEZ: Yeah. It’s unnecessary, it is gross, and it’s not funny. At base, it’s just not funny.
PETER: Yeah. It was just so wildly antithetical to a lot of the things that had happened before it, too, because the show had a lot of fanservice but it was always like Marin purposefully showing off her leg a little bit to kind of tease Gojo because she thought he’d like it.
DEE: Yeah, or it’s from Gojo’s perspective and he’s… again, they’re both 16 years old or whatever and he’s horny and he’s like, “Oh, God, boobs.” And I’m like, yeah, that’s a lot of teenagers. So, there was a certain element of it to be like, okay, well, this is not outside the realm of possibility for these two 16-year-olds. But yeah, I just… I can’t. I can’t.
PETER: It was such a tropey, lowest common denominator fanservice scene where the girl is getting embarrassed, gets walked in on while showering, and yeah, they specifically say… They’d seen pictures of the girl in the previous episode (I guess she’s a famous cosplayer) and specifically said, “I think she’s a grade schooler or a middle schooler.”
DEE: [crosstalk] Yeah, they assumed she was super young.
PETER: So you get that context beforehand, too.
DEE: Oh yeah, and then it’s immediately followed up with her blackmailing Gojo, threatening to— Oh, right. [Snaps her fingers] False sexual assault charges! So, I was fucking done! I forgot that came right after that. Yeah, no, too much, too much. I’m out.
It’s a shame, because I do think that a show about cosplay and some of the gender stuff it was doing with Gojo in terms of, like, he wants to design clothing and got mocked for it when he was younger… I think some of that is great. But if you’re going to fetishize children along the way, you lost. You lose. Good day, sir.
MERCEDEZ: It just sounds like it’s a shame that this is how the story’s been structured.
PETER: Yeah. It really came out of left field.
DEE: And you never know with stuff like this if it’s the author or if it’s the editor saying, “Oh, we need to get this in there.” But either way, somebody thought this should be in this story.
MERCEDEZ: Yeah. And I’ll say, because I was planning to watch this, but this, inclusive of a lot of what I’ve seen people worried [about] coming up, is… I guess at some point, Marin does a cosplay and changes her skin tone?
PETER: Oh, yeah, that’s coming. Well, I don’t know if it’ll be in the anime, but it definitely…
DEE: [crosstalk] They haven’t hit that yet and I won’t hit it, so…
MERCEDEZ: And y’all, that makes me anxious to watch this, in tandem with everything else! That’s a shame.
PETER: I hear the character’s a prisoner. It’s some sort of prison series, too.
MERCEDEZ: [Gasps] Oh, God! You know what? MLK Jr. did not die for this to happen.
MERCEDEZ: I mean… Ooh, okay. It’s Black History Month. I gotta take a breath.
DEE: Take a breath. You don’t have to watch it. You don’t. Nobody does. I can’t recommend it at this point.
MERCEDEZ: Finite minutes on Earth.
DEE: Yeah. Yep. Okay. You know what? I’m tired of being angry. Peter, did you want to say anything else about Dress-Up Darling, or should I move on?
PETER: That might be it. At the very least, I remember thinking like, “Oh, I guess I can’t safely recommend this show anymore after that scene.” But yeah, very disappointing.
DEE: Mm-hm. Sure was.
Okay, but we’re heading into our final category, the Feminist Potential category. We will be starting with Sasaki and Miyano, which I’m the only person on… What?! You guys! You guys! Sasaki and Miyano is, I would say, the best show of the season that’s not a sequel or a carryover. It’s terrific.
MERCEDEZ: [crosstalk] What is it?
DEE: It is a slow-burn romcom between two lads, Sasaki and Miyano. They initially bond over… Miyano is big into BL manga, and Sasaki kind of takes an interest in him and finds out and is asking him what manga he likes. And he explains to him and so he’s like, “Well, yeah, let me see what that reads like.” And so he passes him a BL and then they bond over the fact that they both really enjoy reading BL.
Folks at home, if you’ve not heard that term before, boys’ love, BL, so: stories about—romantic stories about two boys. Initially were targeted at women, so there’s some stuff you can untangle there. But within Sasaki and Miyano, the two of them bond over that, and then Sasaki realizes he is in love with Miyano.
I’ve talked about this in the premiere review and in the three-episode Vrai touched on this as well. There’s a lot subtextually in this about how you can use fiction to see yourself even if you don’t necessarily realize you’re seeing yourself. BL is very much an awakening for Sasaki of “Oh, you can feel these feelings towards boys and that is what I feel.” Miyano is very much like, “Oh, I just enjoy it. I’m not like that.” He’s kind of untangling some internalized homophobia. And then he has a revelation a few episodes in where he realizes he also has a crush on Sasaki, and he’s like, “But I had a crush on a girl in middle school, so I didn’t think I liked boys!”
PETER: [Chuckles] How does that work?
DEE: [crosstalk] And he’s like, “Wait, maybe I like both.” And honestly, it is an extremely grounded series. It feels very authentic in the way it writes the characters, including their flaws. Like, Miyano has this issue where he’ll kind of map BL relationships onto real people, which is a thing teenagers do and shouldn’t. And the show generally is like, “Dude, don’t. Stop.” So it’s aware of that.
And it is, I would say, probably the best-directed and staged show that is, again, not a sequel or a carryover this season, just in terms of a lot of the body language and a lot of the scenes that maybe don’t have dialogue but very beautifully convey the longing when Sasaki is crushing Miyano but doesn’t want him to know it. It’s really, really, really well done.
I haven’t seen the latest episode, so hopefully as I’m saying this it didn’t just shoot itself in the foot. But I’ve been really impressed with this one. I think it’s a lovely little slow-burn romance, and I also think it’s doing just terrific work across the board production-wise.
MERCEDEZ: That’s gonna be a watch from me. That’s gonna be a watch from me, for sure.
DEE: Yeah. No, check it out, absolutely. I’m really, really impressed with it, and I hope it continues to build their relationship and the characters around them and that things go well and it doesn’t faceplant, because that’s always a concern with romances. But we’ll see how it goes.
MERCEDEZ: Fingers crossed.
DEE: Yeah, so I love that one.
DEE: Okay, we can move to the final show on the list. We are of course running out of time, but we’ll be fine. Sabikui Bisco. This is another one I’m surprised more people on the team aren’t watching because it’s a romp. I think it’s a lot of fun.
MERCEDEZ: I’ll tell you, for me, I wanted to hold off until the novel released. After I heard that the first episode was kind of jumbly, I was like, “Well, let me read the novel and then I can dive back into the good ol’ Rust-Eater Bisco.”
DEE: Yeah, I think that’s fair. I liked the way the first episode just chucked you in and bounced between some plot points and just threw you into the world and said “good luck,” because I like shows that do that, because then you figure stuff out as you go. And with this one, I think it’s done a good job of, as you go, explaining the world to you in a way that’s fairly natural and not just infodumping. I don’t mind being a little confused when I start a show, so that didn’t bother me with Bisco at all.
It is wildly creative in a way that… You know, we were talking earlier about anime taking creative risks in terms of just going all-out with the world. I love the confident weirdness of the universe that this show lives in. I really like the characters. I tagged it as Feminist Potential because of the sort of dystopian elements to it. I don’t think it’s going to go hard on those. I think it’s mostly going to be kind of a road trip adventure story.
But Peter, you speak to it too, because I’ve talked about it already a few times on the website. I think it’s a really fun road trip fantasy adventure story. How are you liking this one?
PETER: Yeah, for sure. I’m one episode behind, but the last episode is when Bisco and Panda start on their journey together, and I thought they had a really good back-and-forth. I really liked the guy trying to make it so that the crab would let him ride on its back. I really like the giant crab in general.
DEE: The crab is wonderful. All the animals are terrific.
PETER: Yeah. Cannon hippos. That’s a real thing.
DEE: [crosstalk] Yeah. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but there’s more animals in the most recent episode that also made me clap my hands in delight. I spent large portions of the show like, “Yes, yes, yes!” and just clapping my hands like a child.
The two main characters are boys and they’ve kind of got a bromance thing going on. You are welcome to ship them together. I don’t know if the show will ever do anything with it, but you definitely can.
But I have enjoyed the way… Peter, you’re not fully caught up. The most recent episode had a subplot about Pawoo, who is Milo’s sister, the one who’s sick. But she’s going after Milo because she’s not just gonna let him wander off with this guy who she thinks is super dangerous. And she’s got her own storyline as well, and within this story is competent and capable and is learning things about the world and just how corrupt the governor (I think he’s the governor) in Ichihama [sic], the mayor, whatever his official role is. The mobster, the mob who runs their town. So they’re doing some good stuff with her.
Tirol is a disaster and I love her! Did you enjoy Tirol as well?
PETER: I was a bit concerned since her running into them in the road and she does the whole seduction and then “You gotta pay me” kind of thing. It seems like they’re just gonna keep running into her over and over again, and I hope it falls into a Faye Valentine thing where she just ends up falling in with them and they can do cool hijinks together.
I did watch half of the most recent episode, so I was happy to see Pawoo again. I didn’t know if she was just going to disappear now that they’ve left the town. I was really curious what the series was going to do with her in general.
DEE: Yeah, me too.
PETER: But I do like that in her pursuit of Bisco, thinking that he has kidnapped her brother, she is forced to be exposed to more of the world and discover that the governor that she works for is a piece of shit, and she might be a bad guy because she’s a cop, which is great.
DEE: Yeah, because that was kind of my chief concern with the first episode, was: are the girls just gonna be plot devices? But I feel like they’re giving them their own stories as well, independent from the guys, so I really appreciate that. Even Tirol’s whole thing where they rescue her because she accidentally poisons herself. She has that moment where she’s like, “Oh, you only rescued me because you want my body!” But she’s here for it. And it wasn’t overplayed one way or the other. I thought it was amusing because then Milo’s like, “No, that’s not what’s happening here,” and she’s like, “Ah. Okay, fine. You look cute, but whatever.”
PETER: [crosstalk] She hadn’t poisoned herself, I think it’s important to say. That parasite in her was put in her by the governor, which he does to all of his men.
DEE: That’s right! That’s right!
PETER: If you don’t take your medicine, then you fucking die. And they don’t know they have that thing that’ll kill them inside of them.
DEE: Yeah, it definitely has big, broad, “corrupt government, down-with-the-system” sort of dystopia vibes.
MERCEDEZ: I was gonna say, this sounds like Mad Max: The Anime.
PETER: Oh, yeah. One of the reasons that I thought it was so attractive in the beginning is because it’s very ‘90s-core, like Trigun or Desert Punk.
DEE: Mm-hm. Desert punk is a good way to word it. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
MERCEDEZ: This anime makes me want to die immortal on the Fury Road. This sounds so good!
MERCEDEZ: This sounds so good. Okay, yeah. Yeah.
DEE: It really is a lot of fun. And it’s one of those where there’s a lot of elements like climate apocalypse and there’s a plague that is harming people, where you’re like “Oh, this seems too real.” But because it is so loaded with these fantasy adventure elements, it’s palatable while also hitting.
I don’t know. It’s hard to explain. I feel like I’m not doing a good job of it, but it doesn’t feel too real. You’re still having a good time while you’re also able to resonate with, like, “Yes, please, please defeat… If only you could just defeat the plague. That would be terrific.”
MERCEDEZ: I like that. I like that, though.
PETER: Obvious Nausicaa inspirations in there, too.
DEE: Mm-hm. Yeah, yeah, yeah, you can see that for sure.
MERCEDEZ: Also, Dee, you had me at big crab. Big crab got me.
PETER: The giant crab friends.
DEE: There’s a giant crab. There’s the lizard… What are they, the iguana calvary, something like that? [Chuckles] The hippo troops. Yeah, it’s a good time. I would recommend it.
There’s really nothing that I can think of that… I mean, Pawoo’s outfit is silly. It’s a very cleavage-heavy catsuit. But I think that’s really the only thing I can think of where I’m like, you know, boob nonsense, basically. But it’s not like the camera is focused in on it, and she’s a very capable, active woman, so whatever.
PETER: Stone-cold badass.
DEE: Yeah, she’s a stone-cold badass. Fine, I’m over it. I can move past her silly outfit.
MERCEDEZ: Okay, okay.
DEE: But otherwise, there’s really not a lot to warn folks about and it’s been entertaining. I’m having a good time with it. So, yeah, check it out if you like a good fantasy adventure. Good dynamic between the two leads, too, so, yeah, it’s fun.
MERCEDEZ: I tell y’all: winter ‘22 is just full of a lot of ups and highs and lows and downs and…
DEE: There have been some good surprises and some bad surprises.
DEE: Yeah, I think that’s very true of it.
MERCEDEZ: It’s kinda like the situation in the world right now. A lot of good surprises, lot of bad surprises.
DEE: True story. Yeah, and obviously we won’t go into sequels and carryovers, folks at home, for this mid-season. We are at the hour. And we’ll try to talk about some of those— In fact, we definitely will talk about some of those at the retrospective because there’s some very good stuff in that batch as well.
PETER: We must, yeah.
DEE: Yeah. We’re gonna have to talk about sequels and carryovers at the end. But for this one, we’ll put a pin in that and we’ll discuss it later. So, anything else you guys wanted to touch on, or should I go ahead and play us out?
PETER: I think we’re good.
MERCEDEZ: Play us out.
DEE: All right, let’s do it.
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